Editor’s note: Today we present a guest post from one of the Legion’s Service Dogs. These specially trained dogs are the pride of Legion BC Yukon Command as we fund their training with Courageous Companions. We want to get dogs into the lives of Veterans who have trauma and suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
We know you might wonder about how a dog comes through the program and is partnered with their Veteran. Here is how it works, from the four legged perspective of a Service Dog:
My name is Coco. I am a particularly clever dog because I have been chosen to be trained to serve a hurt Veteran. Just a few months ago I had no dog house and spent lots of cold nights outside. I was scared all the time, and never slept properly because the streets are a dangerous place after dark. Then, a nice human found me and took me to a shelter. It was better than being out in the cold but there were so many dogs there, and all I wanted was a human to call my own.
One day, a nice person came to get me from my cage. I got to go home to his house, and I even had my own bed. Once I got comfortable and found place to hide all the toys he gave me, I started to feel happy again. Then, when I found out that I was getting trained for a really important job, I was so excited!
Every day during my training, I put on my working vest. I don’t know what it says, but people always smiled and talked with my human, so it must say “good dog” or something. Anyway, I learned how to help people. It was a lot to remember at first. I had to watch my handler to see when he felt scared, and then I had to get his attention quickly. I know if I didn’t stop him, he would just get more and more afraid. At night, I slept at the end of his bed, and he taught me to wake him up when he screamed in the night.
It took a lot of time for me to learn all of the things I have to know. It is important that I learned my jobs well because most of them are things I have to do without being asked. I had to learn the smell of a human who is anxious and make it stop. That is a big job for a little dog like me.
After a long time, and when I finished learning, I had to take an exam. It was a big test to make sure I was ready. I know I passed because I got a new working vest, and some cookies. And then, I got my forever human.
My human is a Veteran. She is really nice and takes me everywhere she goes. I watch over her all the time, and at night I sleep close to her so I can feel her dreams. Sometimes she needs me to turn the lights on and wake her up so she stops crying. Sometimes I have to go find her under the bed.
When we are out together, I watch over her and stay close. When we come home, she sends me into her house to check that we can come in and relax. She doesn’t have to watch for scary things as much because that is what I do for her now. She sleeps, and I guard her.
I remember being scared and lonely and running away from people, but now I am a Service dog and I have my Veteran. My job is to protect her, and all she has to do is love and trust me.
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